Sustainability as a Real Utopia – Heuristics for transformative sustainability research

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T1 - Sustainability as a Real Utopia – Heuristics for transformative sustainability research

AU - Harnesk, David

AU - Isgren, Ellinor

PY - 2021/5/31

Y1 - 2021/5/31

N2 - The idea of ‘Sustainability as a Real Utopia’ elaborated on here adapts sociologist Erik Olin Wright’s emancipatory social science and is a heuristic informed by critical realism and social theory for interdisciplinary research on viable alternatives that move society towards achieving sustainability. Starting from the proposition that many environmental problems are rooted in how social structures and institutions interact with nature by shaping human agency, we argue for concretely situated analysis aimed at guiding human agency towards changing those root causes. Then, drawing on concrete examples from sustainability research, we elaborate on three central tasks: diagnosing and critiquing environmental problems, elaborating viable alternatives and proposing a theory of transformation. Finally, we discuss, and welcome dialogue around two central and interlinked challenges of our approach to transformative sustainability research: that of scales, and that of the distinction and relationship between reforms and transformation.

AB - The idea of ‘Sustainability as a Real Utopia’ elaborated on here adapts sociologist Erik Olin Wright’s emancipatory social science and is a heuristic informed by critical realism and social theory for interdisciplinary research on viable alternatives that move society towards achieving sustainability. Starting from the proposition that many environmental problems are rooted in how social structures and institutions interact with nature by shaping human agency, we argue for concretely situated analysis aimed at guiding human agency towards changing those root causes. Then, drawing on concrete examples from sustainability research, we elaborate on three central tasks: diagnosing and critiquing environmental problems, elaborating viable alternatives and proposing a theory of transformation. Finally, we discuss, and welcome dialogue around two central and interlinked challenges of our approach to transformative sustainability research: that of scales, and that of the distinction and relationship between reforms and transformation.

KW - real utopias

KW - interdisciplinarity

KW - sustainability science

KW - social theory

KW - critical realism

U2 - 10.1177/25148486211018570

DO - 10.1177/25148486211018570

M3 - Article

JO - Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space

JF - Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space

SN - 2514-8494

ER -